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When living with a demyelinating disease such as Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy or Multiple Sclerosis, chronic fatigue can become a part of life.  Fatigue can be made worse in those living with diseases that cause demyelination by any number of factors.  There are also many different ways to combat fatigue.

What is it?

Fatigue is an overwhelmingly tired feeling.  It’s your body’s way of saying that you need to rest.  In our constantly on the go society, I expect most everyone has experienced fatigue at some point in their lives.  It’s particularly easy for people living with demyelinating diseases to get fatigued.

What causes it?

There are many things that can cause fatigue in both healthy individuals and those living with demyelinating diseases.

  • Poor lifestyle habits – Improper rest, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, work, and stress can all cause fatigue.  Too much exercise can also cause fatigue, so pay attention to your body and don’t push it too far.
  • Diseases – There are many diseases that wear down the body and can cause fatigue.  Autoimmune disorders and diseases that cause demyeliantion are a given.  Heart disease, cancer, low blood pressure, diabetes, narcolepsy, renal disease, and anemia along with acute illness such as the flu can also cause fatigue.
  • Mental disorders – Mental disorders such as depression have been known to cause fatigue.
  • Medication – There are numerous medications that can cause fatigue.  Antihistamines, antibiotics, blood pressure medications, pain killers… you name it, every type of medication probably has at least one medicine that causes fatigue.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – It goes without saying that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes fatigue.  If your fatigue symptoms last longer than six months and are accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and muscle weakness with no other explanation for the fatigue, it’s possible you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

How is it diagnosed?

As with pretty much everything requiring a diagnosis, your doctor will take an extensive medical history to help determine the cause of your fatigue.  Since there are so many things that can cause fatigue, a detailed medical history is a must in getting an accurate diagnosis.  Keeping a journal of your symptoms, daily activities, diet, exercise, and a list of medications you take along with how often you take them will go a long way towards getting a solid diagnosis of what’s causing your fatigue.  To help rule out whether or not stress is a factor in your fatigue, be prepared to talk about your work and home environment.  Routine tests such as blood tests might be ordered to rule out any metabolic causes.

How is it treated?

How your fatigue is treated is dependent upon what is causing your fatigue.  For those living with chronic fatigue because of a disease, there are several things that might be done to treat it.  Medication might be prescribed as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.  Daily activities might have to be adjusted in order to more effectively deal with any chronic fatigue experienced.

  • Caffeine – In normal individuals who deal with fatigue occasionally, a stimulant such as caffeine can be used to give a burst of energy.  Caffeine is addictive so it must be used with caution.  It can also cause insomnia if used too often.  Insomnia will only make your fatigue worse.
  • Lifestyle changes – Getting proper rest, nutrition, and exercise is the best way of dealing with fatigue.  Make sure you drink enough water and eat a balanced diet every day.  Cutting back on the amount of stress or finding alternative ways to deal with stress such as meditation or engaging in activities you enjoy can lower stress levels and decrease fatigue.

Alternative treatments for fatigue – Some alternative treatments for fatigue include:

  • Essential oils – Rosemary, eucalyptus blue gum, peppermint, and citrus essential oils put in a bath or inhaled through a vaporizer can stimulate the senses and give a burst of energy.
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal therapy – In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s believed that fatigue is caused by a blockage of the energy flow inside the body.  Herbal therapies are used to rebalance the system.
  • Deep breathing exercises – Most people under stress breathe with their chest instead of their diaphragm.  Chest breathing is shallow.  Shallow breathing for extended periods of time can result in fatigue.  Breathing through the diaphragm gives deeper breathes which results in more oxygen being circulated through the blood.  More oxygen in the blood means less fatigue.
  • Color therapy – It is believed that certain colors illicit different responses in the body.  Being wrapped in red or orange cloth or being bathed in red or orange colored light is believed to help relieve fatigue by energizing the body.

My experience

I didn’t really have many problems with fatigue until a couple of years ago.  As my CIDP progresses and I have more symptoms cropping up for longer periods of time, I find I’m getting fatigued more and more easily.  I know part of the reason is my body has to work so much harder now due to the demyelination and weakness I’m experiencing.  I often explain my fatigue to my friends by saying that if they walked a mile, it would be like me running a marathon.

I was prescribed Provigil to help with the fatigue.  I’ve taken it with mixed success.  My body tends to overreact to medications.  Because of that, for the first few days, it left me jittery and nervous feeling.  The problem I encountered was the worst of my fatigue happens just before noon.  Provigil is designed to help more with early/late afternoon fatigue.  I would have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning for it to have any positive effect for me.  Provigil is also extremely expensive and not covered by most insurance prescription plans.

More information on fatigue can be found here.

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2 Responses to Fatigue

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